Monthly Archives: July 2013

The baguette basket

baguette lady

This photo was taken when I stopped an old lady to buy some baguettes. Balancing a heavy-looking basket on her head,  she took a few baguettes, put them into a plastic bag taken from her side, gave all to me, took my money, put in her pocket and walked away. In less than a minute, she was already on her way. Such a skill.

There was a short phase of my teenager years when I practiced walking gracefully with a book on my head. Probably I thought the skill would take me to glamorous catwalks one day. I actually got quite good at that but definitely nowhere near her level. Though it is unlikely that she could have made it to the catwalks either. The tiny lady. In my wild imagination, she might have been just like me during her rebellious years. Walking with a book on her head. But life has put a baguette basket there instead. 

I watched her being out of my sight in amazement. How long has she carried the baguette basket? And how much longer? There is a youthful spirit in her steps. I found it inspiring. Life can be tough but it is you who decide how you fight your way through life.


Vietnamese drive-through

Sometimes on the way to work, my boyfriend stops the scooter for me to buy my breakfast. A woman sitting on the side of the road sells me com nam – plain rice ball. I remain on the scooter while giving her money in exchange for my breakfast pack. My boyfriend finds the process fascinating. He calls it Vietnamese drive-through, an analogy that tickles me.

Com nam is high in carb but does not last long. Soon I am hungry for more. I normally have my com nam with a mix of roasted sesame and peanut. It has the simplicity of peasant food. A reminder of my childhood when having enough to eat was a struggle. I wonder if it is still a struggle for the woman on the side of the road. She could not have made a lot from the com nam she sold at the next-to-nothing price. Selfishly I want her to be there representing the sweet old days. But I know I won’t be there always to buy from her. I will move on. So will the ones who queue after me in the drive-through. In such time when every few seconds count, we have to keep moving regardless.

Em – Giấc mơ hồng

Có lần em hỏi về mối tình đầu

Sáu mùa đông anh chị đã yêu nhau

Em góp nhặt biết đến bao lâu

Cho dài đủ tình đầu của chị

Xòe bàn tay hứng ánh nắng chiều

Xa rồi thời chị đếm những ngày yêu

Nụ cười em giòn, ánh mắt em xiêu

Vai em rộng che đường xa nhiều gió

Em tìm chị về ngày tháng bảy mưa giông

Ủ chị vào lòng cho những ấm nồng

Gỡ chữ yêu tròn từ tơ tình cong

Xây lại giấc mơ hồng


Hanoi. July month. Friday evening.

The rain outside has stopped. It’s all gone quiet. First foot in the bath. The second one follows. I am grabbed by the extreme heat of the water. All pores open up to gentle bubbles. My body slips under the softness and my head goes free.

Flashes of Sheffield. Another sunny July day. The city was a ramble of hills. Signposts were confusing. I remembered myself lost in a corner characterized by grey and black graffiti. Up hills, steps and stairs, I was found in a hotel room. A lush bath.

Dragging me back to real time in my flat is quickly dissolving bubbles.  My legs feel so naked. Reality is bare. Gathering thoughts, I rise. Waiting next door is open arms. However hot it could be, it is totally possible to feel warmer; because love is as real as reality.